you are backpacking through Europe or dropping by on a cruise ship, seeing a
city in a hurry can be a challenge. The beauty of Dubrovnik lies in its union
of city and beach, the combination of urban rush and seaside rest, and it’s
important to experience both in this vibrant city. So make the most of your
weekend there with these tips.
Arrive at the city’s Pile
Gate at 10am. The city is beginning to wake up – the cruise ships are not
yet in, and the temperature is still mild. The best way to see the city is to
walk around the city walls. Entry costs 100kn. The views around the wall, at varying heights and levels, let you
see every aspect of this UNESCO Heritage Site, from the blue-sea-blue-sky horizon to the terra cotta roof tops and iconic yellowing church towers. Like
most places in this medieval city, this is not an activity for those with
limited mobility – the entire city is in a dip, and this means stairs, everywhere.
The walls are an absolute must for any visit to Dubrovnik – and if you can
shell out the extra cash, it’s definitely worth getting a tour guide (who can
be found beside the Pile Gate) as there are no information points on the walls.
Do the walls in the morning – you don’t want to get caught up here when the
town starts to get busy, or when the afternoon sun is at its hottest.
After the walls, food, drink and rest is top priority. Croatian
cuisine is a blend of Italian and Mediterranean, with some lingering Bosnian
influences. Many restaurants in Dubrovnik’s Old City look and sound the same –
from the names to the menu, it can be very difficult to tell apart quality establishments
from tourist-appeasing cafés. For fantastic fresh seafood, head to Barba where the Dubrovnik
speciality of calamari is perfection. Their exclusively seafood menu changes depending
on the fresh fish of the day, but frequently features items like tempura oysters
and prawn, octopus burger, shrimp salad and tuna sandwiches. There is limited
seating in this tiny, popular place, or you can take away and enjoy your
octopus burger by the harbor.
Dubrovnik also has an amazing selection of pizzerias. Pizzeria Oliva serves up fantastic
pizzas and salads – plus with indoor and outdoor seating, it’s perfect in any
weather. At both of these lunch time stops, you can relax with a local beer or
wine. If you are feeling dehydrated from all the walking, ask for tap water –
it’s free and tastes great with a bit of ice!
In the afternoon, explore Dubrovnik at street level. Wander
round the narrow streets and into the picturesque squares – there are plenty of
churches and cathedrals to be visited, and ample opportunities for the ‘historic-building selfie’.
Head to the Maritime Museum by the harbor to discover
more about Dubrovnik’s naval history: it played an important role in the
medieval trading world, along with the Venetian Empire. This museum gives the
city some context and history, especially if you didn’t get a tour of the walls.
If you are interested in visiting any of Dubrovnik’s other old-city museums
(including the Rector’s Palace, or the Natural History Museum) it is worth
getting the 24-hour Dubrovnik Card for 150kn: this covers entry into the city walls and seven
different museums, plus free bus travel if you wanted to explore further
Game of Thrones
Calling all TV-buffs: popular HBO series Game of Thrones has filmed on location
for scenes in King’s Landing since 2011. If you are a fan of the show, definitely
check out the Game of Thrones Tour which runs 11am or 5pm daily in high
season. This walking tour takes two hours, and the tour guide – usually an
extra from the show – takes you around the city, showing locations from
Blackwater Bay to Little Finger’s Brothel. At 180kn each it is one of the
most expensive tourist activities – but for fans of the show, this price is
well worth paying. Prices are the same between different tour companies, and
information can be found outside the Pile Gate.
If fantasy television isn’t your thing, then head up to Fort Lovrijenac instead: the
panoramic views from the lush and green Lapad resorts to the red-roofed old
city are not to be missed.
Freshening up after a long day of walking, searching out somewhere to
relax for dinner in the old city can be unnecessarily stressful as many
restaurants jammed together vie for attention. Tucked down a side street, Konoba Dalmatino comes highly recommended. The food is a creative Croatian take on
Italian classics, and their wine selections feature many from the local area.
The mussels are a must-try, and the meal is topped off with a local brandy
liqueur on the house. An old city experience without the price tag, this
restaurant provides quality food and service. Another excellent old city is the
Taj Mahal – oddly enough, not an Indian restaurant but a Bosnian one. Meat and
veggie lovers alike will find satisfaction in this excellent home-cooked food
–from kebabs to sausages (cevapcici, a local speciality), Bosnian cheeses to
grilled Mediterranean vegetables, and their meat and cheese pastries are
delicious. For something a little bit different, this is the place to go.
If you are searching for an after-dinner drink, many places
on the main street will remain open, but prices will of course be higher than
elsewhere. The Buzz Bar is an excellent (and reasonably
priced) alternative down a restaurant-cluttered alleyway, serving a variety of wines, beers and local
liqueurs, plus coffees for those needing a pick me up day or night – the fact
that they have Wi-Fi is a bonus. For the night-owls amongst you,
Dubrovnik’s nightclub scene thrives during summer, from the Ice Bar by the Onofrio Fountain to East-West, a beach-front nightclub
where you can watch the sunset and the sunrise.
Head to the Ploče Gate at the south-east side of the city to get
the cable car to the top of Mount Srd –
tickets are 100kn for an adult return, and student discounts are
available. A moderately priced restaurant at the top is a great place to stop
for coffee or a cold drink and take in the views – and for anyone interested
Dubrovnik’s recent past, the Homeland War Museum (30kn) in the old fort is one of the best exhibitions in the city. An informative and
moving documentary in the third room gives an excellent overview, whilst the
other exhibit rooms give in-depth information on history and aftermath.
D’Vino Wine Bar
Back down in the city for lunch, head to the D’Vino Wine Bar – whether you fancy
yourself a wine connoisseur, or just enjoy a glass on holiday, the friendly
staff are always happy to help you pick out the perfect sharing platter and
local wine, giving you an authentic Croatian experience. If you are looking for
something a little bit simpler, try the Pizzeria Tabasco on your way back
from the cable car – delicious no-fuss food to suit all tastes.
Dubrovnik is not just the old city, and for the full
experience it is best to get out in the afternoon and explore the suburbs. The
beaches of Lapad and Port Gruž are about 20-30 minutes walk, or 10 minutes on the
bus from the Pile Gate (15kn one way, or free with the Dubrovnik Card).
After a day of walking round the city, you are going to want some down time to
appreciate just how gorgeous Dubrovnik is – relax on one of the pebble beaches
Lapad or Copacabana.
If you’d rather avoid sun-towels, sun-burn and the icy Adriatic, a walk around
Babin Kuk’s coastal pathwill lead you to the idyllic Cave Bar More – hotel-spa complex, with
a restaurant, café and bar cut into the rock. Their outdoor water-level terrace
lets you enjoy the landscape of Lapad Bay whilst you sit comfortably on their
sun-sofas and sip cocktails into the afternoon.
You could head back into the city for your final meal, but
some Dubrovnik’s best restaurants can be found in Lapad and Gruž. The popular Taverna Otto sits in the harbor,
popular with both tourists and locals. Their pork dishes are sensational, as is
the tuna steak – and don’t forget to try their chocolate fondant pudding. Between
the harbor and Lapad is Pantarul, where a creative, modern
menu doesn’t mean high prices or pretentious surroundings – their relaxed decor
and friendly staff add to a wonderful culinary experience. A selection of
delicious pastas and risottos offer something a bit different, and their veal
is a must for meat lovers. Don’t miss the sunset, and enjoy a
leisurely dinner at either of these establishments: a fantastic end to an unforgettable thirty-six hours in Dubrovnik.